Exploring the Tone in “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe: the Harmony of Love and Desolation

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Exploring the Tone in “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe: the Harmony of Love and Desolation

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” is a poignant poem that masterfully blends tones of love and desolation. This essay delves into the complex emotional landscape Poe paints, exploring how the poem’s rhythm, diction, and imagery contribute to its mournful yet affectionate tone. The piece examines the speaker’s deep love for Annabel Lee and the profound sense of loss that follows her death, highlighting the enduring nature of their bond even in the face of tragedy. It also considers how Poe uses the sea as a metaphor for both love’s depth and the isolation of grief. The overview aims to unravel the intricate interplay of love and sorrow that makes “Annabel Lee” an enduring classic. Moreover, at PapersOwl, there are additional free essay samples connected to Edgar Allan Poe.

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Edgar Allan Poe has such a way with words that make his poems such an interesting read. “Annabel Lee” was the last complete poem composed by Poe, and like many of his poems, it explores the theme of death.

Introduction to Poe’s Last Complete Poem

There is a debate about whom the poem is talking about in Poe’s life, and it is believed to be his wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe. The poem is constructed of six stanzas, three with six lines, one with seven, and one in eight.

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The rhyme scheme changes slightly in each stanza, and Poe regards this as a ballad.

Use of Repetition in Setting the Mood

Poe uses repetition in this poem as we see the line “In this kingdom by the sea” (Poe 465); this suggests to us that this is important and that Poe is trying to get it across as important. Poe used this repeating effect a lot in his works as it traps us in the poem. Poe wrote the poem in May 1849, but it was published two days after his death as part of his obituary in the New York Daily Tribune. “Annabel Lee” was an inspiration to many authors and inspired many works of literature.

The Love, Jealousy, and Tragic End of Annabel Lee

The poem is about the narrator telling a tale of his long-lost love. He states that they both grew up “In a kingdom by the sea” (Poe 464) and that they were both in love with each other. Even though they were both young, they are deeply in love stated by the narrator. Even the angels in heaven noticed their love, and he says they were jealous, so jealous in fact that the narrator blames the angels for Annabel’s death. A wind was released from the clouds that made Annabel sick and eventually killed her.

Tone and Mental State of the Narrator

When she died, her family came and took her away and placed her in a tomb. The speaker made sure we understood how deep his love for Annabel was and always will be. Her death will not stop his love, and the angels or devils wouldn’t even kill his love for her. He still sees her everywhere he goes and in his dreams; he then references that he sleeps with her in her tomb every night, which shows how crazy the narrator has become.

The poem starts off like a fairy tale with the opening, “ It was many a year ago, In a kingdom by the sea” (Poe 464). These details are very important because they become big images in the poem. The most important detail of the story, however, is Annabel Lee because she is the title of the poem, which makes her already very important, but she is the sole reason the poem exists. He calls her a “Maiden” (Poe 464), which suggests that she is young and attractive and also keeps the fairy tale feel, but as the poem goes on, it gets darker and darker.

The third stanza introduces the fact that they were so in love that even the angels were jealous. This jealousy is so bad, according to the narrator, that the angles decide to kill Annabel. We get the first look at the creepiness of the story as the narrator describes Annabel’s dead body. Then Annabel’s family comes to take her and take a look at the word he chooses to describe him; he says “Highborn,” which means a noble, and we can see if he was of the same class, there would be no need to call him a noble. With this, we can try to piece together that there is a disagreement between the two families when it comes to social classes.

Poe shows how he can fit small details into what seems like a simple story at first glance. You can hear the pain in the speaker’s voice in that he really loved Annabel. Death and the family are trying to tear these lovers apart, and they bury her in a sepulcher, which is a fancy word for a tomb. Poe uses his vocabulary to enhance the story, and it helps drive the creepy feeling. In the fourth stanza, we see the speaker start to repeat everything he has said, and we start to see what the speaker’s mental state is like. We see that this loss was a traumatic one for the speaker because he keeps thinking about it.

The Dark Imagery and Lasting Obsession

The speaker finally addresses that Annabel has died, and we see Poe master the use of repetition because it keeps driving such a simple story into a complex one. This shows that the speaker was going insane with this and started reaching. Poe also changes minor words in sentences, so it’s very important to pay attention to every word Poe says.

In the fifth stanza, the speaker says that their love will not be broken by death. He says that no angel or demon can break the love they have; it will go on forever until their souls are connected. In the final stanza, we see a shift in tenses as before, he was telling of a past event, and now he is talking about the present. The speaker says that the shine of the moon and the stars remind him of Annabel, and we see this a lot in works from Poe as the main characters are haunted by visions and dreams of the women they love.

His imagery is not the cute kind either, as he says, “and the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes” (Poe 465). He felt that her presence was always on him. Then it starts to get even more creepy as the speaker tells us that he spends the nights sleeping with her dead body in the tomb. Here we can see that there is something seriously wrong with the speaker’s mental state. He misses her so much that he has to sleep with her dead body. The speaker is obsessed with Annabel even more than when she was alive. Poe ends the poem in a chilly line he says, “In her tomb by the sounding sea” (Poe 465), which makes us think of the crashing of the waves and how lonely and cold that must feel for him to be there without Annabel.

Poe’s Unmatched Style and the Impact of Loss

All in all, this poem was a creepy tale of love that overtook someone’s entire life. He couldn’t bear to live without Annabel, and he thought of her all the time. Poe brought his signature style of horror and creepiness into play to this simple story. This worked very well because it took a normal love poem and made it into a complex story that showed Poe’s mastery of the language. The speaker draws us into the story, and we feel bad for him, and it’s like we are actually living his sad life; Poe has you enter the speaker’s mind and see that he can’t get on with his life or accept the fact that his love is gone.

Many people experience this feeling of being alone or losing something that meant so much to them, and they just give up. Poe’s repetition jammed certain lines into our brains and made us remember them. Poe uses the setting to also set the mood; when we hear the word kingdom, we think of a nice happy place, but in reality, this is a living nightmare. The ocean is cold, and the clouds are dark as they fill the sky. The speaker looks over a cliff and can see demons slithering around, which gives you the feeling that this place is not somewhere you want to be. The poem builds well as it starts calm and works its way to getting intense; Poe draws his readers in by letting this story build up, and you instantly want to find out where the poem goes. Poe’s ability to tie in beauty and sadness is unmatched. Edgar Allan Poe was truly a poet who was unmatched in his style of writing.


  1. Bonaparte, Marie. The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe: A Psycho-Analytic Interpretation. Imago Publishing Co, 1949.
  2. Sova, Dawn B. Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. Facts On File, 2007.
  3. May, Charles E. “Edgar Allan Poe.” In Masterplots II: Poetry Series, Revised Edition, edited by Philip K. Jason, 1-3. Salem Press, 2002.
  4. Stovall, Floyd. The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. University of Virginia Press, 1965.
  5. Krutch, Joseph Wood. Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius. Alfred A. Knopf, 1926.
  6. Robinson, E. Arthur. “Poe’s ‘Annabel Lee’: The Speaker’s Age.” American Literature 42, no. 1 (1970): 91-93.
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Exploring the Tone in “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe: The Harmony of Love and Desolation. (2023, Aug 18). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/exploring-the-tone-in-annabel-lee-by-edgar-allan-poe-the-harmony-of-love-and-desolation/